Advice for the Community

Stay healthy using a layered approach

Protect yourself, those around you and our health care system from respiratory illnesses by using "layers of protection". Using layers of protection helps lower your risk of getting and spreading infection.

Layers of protection

  • Vaccinations

    For the best protection, stay up to date with all your vaccinations, especially if you're travelling.

    If you've felt confused about vaccination for you or your child, you aren't alone. Talk to a health care provider who will listen to your concerns and answer your questions.  

  • Wear a mask

    Wearing a mask is part of a layered approach to help protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Masks help protect not only the wearer but also those around them by:

    • Blocking individuals from breathing in germs
    • Blocking an infected person from breathing germs out into the air

    The higher the mask quality, the better protection you will have. Learn about the qualities of a good mask.

    Some people may continue to wear masks and others may not. Public Health encourages individuals to respect and be understanding of someone’s mask choice and to follow mask policies that some businesses or settings may have.
    Wearing a mask is especially important if any of the following are true:

    • You are at higher risk of more severe outcomes from an infection
    • You interact or care for people at higher risk
    • You are in a crowded setting
    • You are in a poorly ventilated setting

    You should also wear a mask in public settings, including in schools and child care, for 10 days if your symptoms have been improving and you are no longer isolating at home (starting from the date your symptoms began).

    How to properly wear and handle a mask

    Making sure your mask fits properly and that you handle it correctly will help give you the best protection. These are important factors for how well the mask will work - no matter which type of mask you are using.

  • Stay home if you're sick

    Whether you have COVID-19 or not, stay home if you're feeling sick to help prevent whatever infection you may have from spreading to others.

    Learn about COVID-19 self-isolation, symptoms and testing.

  • Spend time outdoors or in well-ventilated indoor spaces

    Ensure your ventilation system is in good working order. If you don't have a ventilation system, open windows to increase fresh air flow (if weather permits and can be tolerated).

    Learn about how ventilation helps protect against the spread of COVID-19.

    If you use a forced air system to heat or cool your home:

    • Set the system to "Fan On position" if possible
    • Replace your filter when needed
    • Upgrade to a filter with a higher MERV rating if possible
    • Check your owner's manual for details or consult a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional before making any changes to your system

    Avoid using portable fans, ceiling fans and single unit air conditioners. If you must use them, aim the air stream to avoid blowing directly at or between people in the room. Consider using fans that vent to the outside, such as a box fan in a window, a bathroom exhaust fan and a kitchen exhaust fan. Make sure you open a window when using these fans if possible.

    Try to maintain an optimal humidity level, between 30 and 50 per cent in your home. A humidifier or dehumidifier can help you achieve this.

    For other ventilation options, speak with a HVAC professional or see Health Canada's guidance document 'At home: Using ventilation and filtration to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19'.

  • Clean your hands often
  • Practise respiratory etiquette and keep things clean

    Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your sleeve. Throw used tissues into a covered, compostable bag lined organics bin or a plastic lined garbage can. Clean your hands after.

    Avoid sharing personal items, especially those that come into contact with saliva, such as toothbrushes and eating utensils.

    Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly using a disinfectant and following manufacturer’s instructions. Learn about cleaning and disinfecting and COVID-19.

Those at higher risk of severe outcomes

While anyone can get really sick from viruses like COVID-19, the flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), some people are more at risk of a severe outcome, such as hospitalization or even death, from getting infected. This can be due to factors such as age or having an underlying medical condition. Social factors, like income status, can also put people more at risk.

By using layers of protection, we not only help protect ourselves but also the most vulnerable people in our community, such as children, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. If you are someone who may be at higher risk of a severe outcome from an infection, it is all the more important to use layers of protection to help stay healthy.

Learn who is most at risk of severe outcomes for COVID-19, the flu, and RSV.

International travel advice

See the Public Health Agency of Canada's travel advice for international travel and COVID-19.

If you were vaccinated in Ontario, learn about getting your proof of vaccination.

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